The UK government has officially introduced the controversial traffic light labelling system on packaged foods.
Last year there was much debate within the Australian food and packaging industry over the design and layout of a mandatory front-of-pack nutritional labelling scheme.
The government pledged almost exactly a year ago that it would have a design ready in one year’s time, but currently there is no sign of such a scheme.
It did say at the time that it would not be the traffic light system, which the Australian Food and Grocery Council deemed “too simplistic to work.”
But the UK government obviously has a different view, with the Public Health Minister, Anna Soubry, unveiling the scheme with the promise that shoppers will be able to make “healthier choices” about the food they buy.
The labels, which are intended to be in use by the next UK summer, will combine the traffic light colour-coding along with other information.
The new labels will also show how much fat, saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories are in each product.
Currently the system is voluntary for UK but the local Department of Health (DH) has carried out a three-month consultation with retailers, manufacturers and “other interested parties” on what the consistent, clear front of pack label should look like, according to The Telegraph.
Up until now in the UK, where private label saturation is even higher than in Australiam supermarkets have used their own systems, to display the information.
The DH believes this system is confusing for consumers and that the new labelling scheme will harmonise the industry.
“The UK already has the largest number of products with front of pack labels in Europe but research has shown that consumers get confused by the wide variety of labels used,” Soubry told The Telegraph.
“By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.”
The UK has a very similar problem with obesity as Australia and Soubry said the current cost to the public medical organisation the National Health Service (NHS) is costing one billion pounds each year.
“Making small changes to our diet can have a big impact on our health and could stop us getting serious illnesses – such as heart disease – later in life,” she said.